Thunderstorms in Northeast Wisconsin are common in spring,summer, and fall. The National Weather Service (NWS) uses windspeed and hail size to decide if a thunderstorm is“severe.” If the wind gusts reach 57 mph or higher, ortornadoes are present, or the hail bigger than ¾ inch.
The strong wind gusts of severe thunderstorms can damagebuildings, knock down trees, and create a hazard due to wind-blowndebris.
Lightning can be described as similar to a static dischargebetween clouds and the earth. With the disruption of moisture andheat in our atmosphere, a static charge is formed from thecountless collisions of raindrops and/or hailstones in cumulonimbusclouds. Experts believe these collisions give the base of theseclouds a negative charge and with the right conditions, willrelease the charge of energy with different objects on theground.
Even if you don't see the flash from lightning, we all know it'snear us from the sound we call thunder. Thunder occurs when thelight heats the air to nearly 10,000 degrees Celsius. The rapidlyheated air effectively explodes and creates a shock wave that weknow as thunder.
If you hear thunder but are not sure how far away it is, simplywatch for a strike of lightning, count the seconds until you hearthe thunder and divide by 5. Let's say you see a flash of lightningin the distance and begin counting. You reach "10" just as thethunder crashes... taking 10 and dividing by 5 would give you 2...as in 2 miles away.
This means you need to seek shelter. A simple rule forlightning is that if you see it or hear it, you need to seekshelter.
Hail is balls or chunks of ice larger than ¼ in diameter.Since they’re formed by updrafts within a storm, they occureven when it’s not freezing outside. They are associated withstorms and tornados, and often come during the warm spring monthsof April and May. Hail can be extremely damaging and sometimesdeadly, so seek shelter immediately when there’s a hailwarning.
BEFORE THE STORM STRIKES
Know the county you live in and the names of the major nearbycities or towns. Severe weather warnings and statements are issuedby county and reference major cities.
Check the latest
Watch for signs of an approaching thunderstorm.
If a storm is approaching, keep a NOAA Weather Radio or AM/FMradio with you.
Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are imminent. Thisis your best way to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
Buy surge suppressors for key equipment. Also, install groundfault protectors on circuits near water or outdoors.
WHAT TO DO DURING A STORM
Remember that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to astorm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
At the first clap of thunder, go a large building or fullyenclosed vehicle and wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunderto back outside.
Inside building, stay off corded phones, computers and otherelectrical equipment that put you in direct contact withelectricity. Stay away from pools, indoor or outdoor, tubs, showersand other plumbing.
If you are boating or swimming, get out of boats and away fromthe water, get to land and find shelter immediately.
If you are caught outside and no shelter is available:
• Find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles
• Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet,place your hands on your knees with your head between them, makeyourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contactwith the ground.
• Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelterin small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertibleautomobiles.
If a person is struck by lightning, call 911. Cardiac arrest andirregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases wherepeople are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment,including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightningstrike. You are in no danger helping a lightning victim. The chargewill not affect you.
If you’re in a car when hail strikes, look for a shelterlike a garage or a highway overpass. Make sure you pull completelyoff the highway. Do not leave the vehicle until it stops hailing.Stay away from car windows. Cover your eyes with something. Ifpossible, get onto the floor face down, or lie down on the seatwith your back to the windows. Put very small children under you,and cover their eyes.
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